In my community, they have an event every Thursday call “Thursday Night Out.” The village sets up tables, blocks off a street, arranges for a band, some wine/beer, arts and crafts for the kids. It’s low-key and low commitment, both of which make the exponential joy generated from this event all the more wondersome. As I sat there watching the toddlers cavorting with bubbles, the teenagers with their mystifying clothing choices, the couples all jamming to the blues, I looked around. Really looked. And I saw people of every race, size, color, age. I saw people in wheelchairs, same sex couples, the tattooed and the pearl wearing in utter and complete coexistence. It was the essence of diversity. Every single person pulsed with joy and life.
And then I thought: I have a blog post due – what is at the top of my mind? And then I realized, it is one and the same!
I’ve been really thinking a lot about the why – why should groups hire NP/PAs in hospital medicine?
Surely, not just because I say so. Of course, there are many compelling reasons. There is a huge and looming physician shortage, and the physicians we do have are aging. And yes, many non-urban hospitals are truly struggling under the weight of shrinking reimbursements, and NP/PA providers are a cost-effective way to deliver care. And those are compelling reasons.
But the real why is that I believe, and have experienced, in the true joy and high function of a diverse HM team. This high function is where everyone adds a little of their special spice and abilities to the day’s gumbo. For instance, I’m skilled at placing feeding tubes – really at all procedures – and I can soothe the most difficult patient and family. But my colleague Jina is incredibly talented at diagnosis. I would put her diagnostic reasoning up against anyone’s. Laura knows everything about GI – especially cirrhosis. Truly an expert. Sunny is brilliant at nephrology and acid base issues. Madhu is great at navigating end of life conversations. Brian just makes the tedium of any day fun. Who was a doctor? Who was an NP? Who was a PA? Who was brown? Who was black? Who cares?
There is a fair amount of data looking at diversity of teams:
“Diversity is the key to creativity.” –Jeffrey Baumgartner, Author of The Way of the Innovation Master
“Diversity fosters creativity. We need to generate the best ideas from our people in all levels of the company and incorporate them into our business practices.” –Frédéric Rozé, CEO at L’Oréal USA
“If your industry is stable and relatively predictable, you may be better off sticking to the traditional sources of advantage. But if your competitive reality is uncertain and rapidly changing, as is true in an increasing number of industries, you need a dynamic and sustainable way to stay ahead.” –Martin Reeves, Senior Partner & Managing Director at Boston Consulting Group
Read those quotes and note that every single one of them applies to medicine – especially now. We are living in “interesting times,” as the old proverb says. We need to embrace the idea that hospital medicine is a team sport. It definitely takes a village to care for patients these days – what with increasing acuity, complexity and shifting payment models. This is not a competition between “us” versus “them.” This is about all of us. Our team.
And just like other teams, you have a variety of skill sets and players. To maximize this utility, you should take a look at your site, your patients and your team. Is the site new to NP/PA providers? Are your patients unusually complex? Is your NP/PA workforce on the greener side? Then consider these factors and plan accordingly. NP/PA often bring unique skill sets to the HM team. A new APP may have been a flight nurse. A PA may have been a medic in the military. One may be outstanding at volume, thinking and moving fast. One may be great at the deeper dive of highly complex patients. In general, NP/PAs tend to be uniquely skilled at communication with patients and families – in part, because the type of people attracted to this profession are those that crave the connection with others. They can build your coalition with external consultants, with the ED, with the nurses. If you aren’t sure what your NP/PA is good at, ask them. They would love to tell you.
I’m not naïve about the effort it takes to implement these diverse teams. People come with different training, expectations, experiences and those pesky opinions. But the payoff is huge and far outweighs the effort.
Hospital medicine needs its own version of Thursday Night Out.